What Is CBD For Dogs and Cats?
CBD - short for cannabidiol - is one of the active compounds found in the cannabis plant. Not to be confused with THC (the compound in cannabis that gives it its infamous psychoactive effects), CBD has become increasingly popular over the years due to advancements in research showing its numerous benefits.
CBD can be harvested from hemp plants and concentrated into an organic oil form. Once it's in this form, it can be taken directly as an oil or mixed into other forms, like treats, snacks, and salves. This makes it a completely non-toxic and organic way to improve the health of your dog or cat.
CBD works by stimulating your pet's ECS system. This system - also known as the endocannabinoid system - was named after CBD since it was CBD that lead to its discovery. CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the brain and nervous system, peripheral organs, and tissues, that are responsible for regulating several of your body's core functions: sleep, mood, appetite, immunity, and more! This is why you've no doubt heard of some of the benefits that cannabis users experience from the herb. When you take a CBD supplement, it stimulates the receptors in your ECS system, promoting harmony and homeostasis throughout the body.
Humans aren't the only ones that have an ECS system, either! Most mammals are believed to have this system, which is why dogs, cats, and other mammalian pets can benefit from CBD use the same as us.
How Is CBD Oil Manufactured?
Those new to the concept of CBD tend to have a lot of concerns about what it actually is. "Will it give my pet a high?"; "Is it safe?"; "How is it made?"
All of these are perfectly normal questions to have when considering giving your pet CBD for the first time! In fact, giving your pet any kind of supplement without all of the facts would err on the side of being irresponsible.
CBD is harvested from cannabis plants via a solvent, most commonly and safest by CO2. The solvent is introduced to the plant and subsequently makes its way through the plant's system, naturally absorbing CBD along the way. Then, after it's gathered enough CBD to meet its concentration quota, it is extracted from the plant and purified as CBD oil.
CBD is one of the active compounds in the cannabis plant. Unfortunately, cannabis tends to get confused with marijuana, causing many to be immediately be turned off from using CBD due to the stigma around marijuana. However, despite being used interchangeably, cannabis, marijuana, and hemp are three completely different - though still related - things.
Cannabis vs. Marijuana vs. Hemp
Cannabis is what you would call the parent plant. Hemp and marijuana are each strains of cannabis, and therefore each can be called cannabis. Cannabis, though, is not hemp or marijuana. Sort of a classic squares-are-rectangles-rectangles-are-not-squares situation.
Marijuana is the strain of cannabis that typically comes to mind when thinking of the three plants. It contains CBD as well as THC, the compound responsible for its psychoactive properties. This is why those who use the plant recreationally also experience the benefits of CBD by proxy.
Hemp, on the other hand, is a strain of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC - not enough to have any noticeable effects on the user. Therefore, you cannot get high from using hemp or hemp products.
The Benefits Of CBD For Dogs and Cats
There has been a lot of hype for CBD in recent years, with people making broad claims about its capabilities and benefits. While it's easy to dismiss these benefits as nothing more than hype, the truth is that CBD carries a whole host of benefits for humans and animals alike.
Here are a few of the most exciting benefits of CBD for dogs and cats.
Improve mood and appetite
While we might think of these conditions as being exclusive to us, our pets are just as likely to experience emotional lows as we are. Anxiety is also prevalent in dogs and in cats. It can be as simple as something like travel anxiety, where your pet becomes nervous and agitated on road trips and flights, to something more serious like separation anxiety, where your pet becomes anxious every time you leave the house.
One of the simplest - but most broadly applicable - benefits of CBD is its ability to improve your pet's mood. The ECS system plays a vital role in your animal's mood and appetite. This is why one of the most talked about benefits of CBD is its potential to help manage anxiety/depression.
Anxiety and depression in pets can come from a lot of sources, though past experience is one of the most common causes. Animals from shelters have a high chance of developing some form of anxiety due to changing owners and potentially experiencing a rough past. Fortunately, CBD is able to help soothe these feelings in pets, allowing them to enjoy life to the fullest with as little stress as possible.
Alongside improving your pet's mood, CBD can also help improve the appetite of under-eating animals. CBD can reduce nausea as well, which tends to be a problem with dogs especially due to their inclination to eat before thinking. Just bear in mind that a lack of appetite and nausea are usually symptoms of an underlying issue that CBD likely isn't fixing. If your pet's appetite and nausea don't completely resolve themselves after using CBD, take them to a professional vet as soon as possible to get to the root of the issue.
Manage inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
One of the most noteworthy applications of CBD is its ability to naturally reduce inflammation. While we mostly only hear about inflammation in a negative context, it's actually a healthy and natural function of your body's immune system.
Inflammation is triggered by foreign bodies in your system. When your immune system detects this problem, it sends white blood cells to attack the invasive bodies.
The problem with inflammation is that it can also be triggered incorrectly by a variety of other factors, like exercise, injury, and so on. None of these issues actually has a foreign body for the inflammatory response to fight, so instead, it fights whatever is in front of it - your body.
This can cause a whole host of health issues, including IBD. IBD occurs when the inflammatory cells attack the lining of your pet's intestine, affecting your animal's ability to digest and absorb nutrition. This can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, an increase or decrease in diet, and more.
Thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation altogether, CBD can help reduce the symptoms and advancement of IBD with regular use. It's certainly not a cure, but giving it to your IBD suffering pet can help them manage and live with the syndrome.
Pancreatitis is when your pet's pancreas isn't working as it should. Under normal conditions, your dog or cat's pancreas performs endocrine and exocrine functions, which help with digestion in the small intestine. Endocrine functions, on the other hand, are responsible for releasing hormones that help with other standard bodily functions. Your pet's mood, for example, is related to their endocrine functions.
Pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing pain throughout your pet's body as well as nausea, vomiting, and other digestive issues. Pancreatitis can be caused by a number of factors, though typically it is the result of infection, gallstones, or cystic fibrosis. Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. Acute cases may last for a few days, while chronic cases could last for several years.
The severity of pancreatitis can vary greatly depending on the incident. Some will only experience mild symptoms for a week, after which the pancreas will resume normal behavior. Other times, it can be a life-threatening situation that needs serious medical attention.
Fortunately, pancreatitis is very curable, and usually can be resolved with ongoing treatment, no surgery required. While CBD shouldn't be considered a cure to pancreatitis, its ability to relieve pain and inflammation make it a great way to manage pancreatitis symptoms. If your pet is struggling with the pain of pancreatitis or has been having severe nausea, giving them CBD on a daily basis could help alleviate their symptoms.
Reduce Chronic Pain and Arthritis
Another benefit of CBD's anti-inflammatory properties is its ability to alleviate chronic pain, especially pain caused by arthritis.
Arthritis is an extremely common condition in animals and people alike that occurs when damaged joints begin to cause a being pain and discomfort. While there are a number of causes behind arthritis, one of the leading causes is inflammation.
What happens is that the inflammatory response is triggered by something it shouldn't be - like exercise - and sends cells to attack the non-existent foreign bodies. And when it thinks these foreign pathogens are in your animal's joints, it ends up attacking the joints. What differentiates this from other issues with inflammation, though, is that the joints of your pet can't bounce back and recover like the rest of their body.
Your pet's joints are made up of two bones adjacent bones meeting at a joint, with cartilage and synovial fluid in between them to facilitate smooth and painless motion. When attacked by inflammation, however, the cartilage begins to break down and the synovial fluid can break down. Over time, this means that the once smooth and painless movement of the joint instead becomes, well, rough and painful.
Arthritis is a degenerative condition, meaning that it continues to worsen as time goes on. So while it may start as just minor aches and pains for your pet, it can become completely debilitating. And most of the medications for arthritis - NSAIDs especially - have enough side effects to make their use questionable.
Fortunately, CBD has natural anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, which allow you to both manage the pain of arthritis and slow down its progress.
Reduce the frequency of seizures
One of the most exciting benefits of CBD is its ability to reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic users. Seizures occur due to sporadic spikes in neuron activity in the victim's brain. When this happens, the individual will start to lose control over their body for a short period of time.
Generally, the seizure itself isn't dangerous, but rather the fact that the sufferer could injure themselves due to their lack of movement control. That said, seizures can become severe when they happen back to back. This is what's known as a Grand Mal seizure, and it usually calls for immediate medical attention.
In animals, seizures typically manifest in one of three ways. First, your pet could simply lose consciousness. This will appear to you as though they suddenly just fall over asleep, like fainting. These seizures can be hard to detect, as they're generally more discreet.
Then there is the more familiar kind of seizure, where your pet starts to twitch and spasm uncontrollably. And lastly, your pet could have a psychomotor seizure, which causes them to start behaving strangely. They might do things like chase imaginary things, behave oddly, or run in circles without cause.
CBD has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures in people and animals when given at higher than usual doses, and can even interrupt seizures as they're happening. This is particularly helpful because traditional seizure medications are known for having serious side effects that can impact your animal's quality of life.
Helps Manage Glaucoma
And lastly, CBD is gaining traction as a new way to manage glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition of your pet's eye(s) that can impair their vision over time. What happens is that sustained pressure - for various reasons - ends up blocking fluid from leaving your pet's eyes. This causes it to build up and over time become cloudy.
You've likely seen this in older animals, with their eyes having a bluish, whitish cloud in them. This cloud obscures their vision, and can eventually cause them to become completely blind. Certain breeds are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma, though any dogs can develop it over time.
For this reason, taking preventative measures earlier in your pet's life can reduce the likelihood of them developing the condition. CBD is a great way to reduce the swelling that causes glaucoma in most cases, preventing your pet from ever developing the condition. By relieving the pressure, the ocular fluid that builds up in glaucoma is instead allowed to drain the way that its meant to.
If your pet already has glaucoma, you can start giving them CBD to prevent the condition from worsening. It can also reduce some of the symptoms that go along with glaucoma, improving the quality of their life even at a later age.
Is CBD Oil For Dogs and Cats Legal?
Those new to CBD will understandably have some concerns when considering giving it to their pet. One of those concerns tends to be about the legality of using CBD. This fear comes from the confusion surrounding cannabis, hemp, and marijuana, and the different laws affecting each. In some states, all three are legal, while in others having one on your person can result in jail time.
The simple answer is that, yes, CBD is completely legal to use for your pet or even for yourself. As we mentioned earlier, hemp - unlike marijuana - doesn't have any of the psychoactive properties that make marijuana legally questionable. This is because its THC levels (the compound that gives users a high) are extremely low, too low to have any effect on the user.
For this reason, hemp is legal in all 50 states, even though marijuana is not. So, because CBD for dogs and cats is sourced from hemp, it is completely legal to administer it to them.
Keep in mind, though, that this doesn't mean that there aren't CBD manufacturers who source their CBD from marijuana. While these manufacturers usually don't sell their products for pets, it could happen, and it's vitally important that your animal never comes into contact with marijuana or marijuana-sourced products. While CBD is safe for animals to take, THC is toxic to dogs and cats and can lead to serious health issues.
What Are The Side Effects Of CBD For Dogs And Cats?
Like any medication or supplement, CBD is not without its side effects. And before giving your pet any new form of medication, understanding the side effects is absolutely crucial. Knowing the side effects not only helps you decide whether or not to give your pet CBD in the first place but also helps you monitor their reaction to the supplement when introducing it to them.
The most common side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Lowered blood pressure
Drowsiness is the most common side effect, though in rare cases your pet may experience one or some of the other side effects. If your pet is experiencing drowsiness while taking CBD, lowering their dosage is usually the solution.
As you can see, most of these side effects are extremely mild. This is because dogs and cats both have a very high tolerance for CBD and CBD products. This means that you can give it to your pet without much worry about how it will negatively impact them. Instead, you can focus on whether or not it is producing the desired results.
Is CBD Right For Your Pet?
That said, there are instances when pets are better off not taking CBD. For example, some dogs and cats are just plain allergic to CBD. Obviously, if you notice any allergic reactions within your pet after taking CBD, stop administering it immediately and take them to a vet to assess the severity of their reaction.
You also shouldn't give CBD to a pregnant or nursing animal, nor should you give it to an infant pet. It's also worth mentioning that if your dog or cat is already taking other medication on a routine basis, you should consult with your vet before giving them CBD. This is because medications have a tendency to interact with one another, and you need to make sure that the interaction will be negligible before introducing CBD to your pet.
Keep in mind that CBD is not a cure-all and should never be used as such. While the side effects are mild and the benefits are aplenty, it is (based on current research) only reliable for managing symptoms and reducing the severity of certain conditions. It is not proven to cure anything, nor can it solve any health condition that your pet is suffering from. You should never use CBD in place of traditional medication without a vet's supervision and guidance.
How To Find The Best CBD Products For Your Pet
First, when it comes to pets, CBD typically comes in one of three forms. The most basic is CBD oil, which is just an organic oil that contains concentrated CBD. This is also the most potent, so if you're looking to manage a specific condition and not just giving your pet CBD for preventative reasons, CBD oil is the way to go.
Not all CBD products are created equal, and not all are intended to be used for the same thing. Since it's a relatively new and technical market, finding the right CBD product for your pet can seem tricky at times. So here are a few pointers.
It also comes as a treat or a chew, which is a much milder form of CBD. This is a great way to give your pet CBD if you're just introducing it into their routine and don't have any specific conditions that you're trying to help provide relief for.
The third form that CBD can come as is a salve or topical treatment, which is specifically made to help with skin conditions and joint pains. This kind of CBD product usually doesn't spread throughout your pet's body, so it's really only useful for these two kinds of issues.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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